by Jarrod Day
I had certainly had enough of the old age technique of targeting snapper on unweighted baits over the past month or so and was ever so keen to get back out armed with an array of lures.
The author with a healthy model.
Benno, an avid lure angler and myself decided to suit up and head out one fine morning so it was eyes open by 4am. An hour later we found ourselves launching at our local ramp amongst a hundred or so other anglers all keen to get into some snapper action.
Just as the sun hit the horizon, we slowly motored around out wide sounding for fish. Lowrance’s Structure Scan did all the talking for us and while all of the other anglers were at anchor with their berley trails already established awaiting a bite we were searching for fish in their vicinity. While the berley attracted the fish, it gave us an area to work. Having the boat fitted with an electric motor, we were able to hold back out of anyone’s way and make continuous casts to where we marked fish. This proved to be an effective technique seeing multiple fish being caught and released successfully.
Benno with a solid red.
In Port Phillip Bay, finding snapper is often quite difficult if you don’t know what to look for exactly. There are not many natural reef structures to hold fish, although smaller 'man made' reefs do hold fish during the early season. As the season progresses the fish begin exploring the terrain in search for food. When they do this, locating them in a school can prove almost impossible rather you’re more likely to find one or two even three fish near each other. Providing they are close to one another, this is enough for any bait fisho to anchor on but when it comes to lure fishing, any fish found on the sounder can be cast too.
If you aren’t equipped with an electric motor, drifting is an effective technique. The only downfall to drifting is if you’re amongst other boats, you have to pick your drift line so not to get too close or you may meet with some unsavoury words. Even worse is if your not watching and are side tracked by working your lure, you could crash into another boat. When drifting simply motor ahead of where the fish have been located, release your arsenal of lures ensuring they are worked along the bottom hopefully in front of the fishes noses.
If you do have an electric motor, lure fishing becomes much easier. This is achieved by using the electric to hold over the top of the school allowing you to drop right to them without having to work the lures where fish aren’t.
Another added bonus is using Lowrance’s Structure Scan. Structure scan allows you to see both left and right to a distance you tell it to. This will give you far more coverage of an area to work and find fish.
Lowrance's structure scan will allow you to find fish both left and right of your vessel. All those small white dots, are snapper....Look how many there are.
Working a soft plastic requires a slight finesse approach for it to be effective. Although some species might favour a fast high speed retrieve, others such as snapper prefer the lure hopping over the seafloor before devouring it as it free falls back to the bottom.
After the lure is cast it needs time to get to the bottom. While most of the time you are using light weights, it can take a little time to reach the bottom but it is vital that the lure isn’t worked until it is otherwise you won’t have the lure in the strike zone.
Once on the bottom, the rod can be ripped vertically just once followed by lowering the rod tip to the water surface. At the same time, slowly wind up the slack line on the waters surface and when the lure has hit the bottom again, repeat the process until the lure is back at the boat. If there are no inquiries on the first cast, cast out again repeating the process or if you have drifted off the fish you found, motor back up, set yourself up for another drift and again repeat.
If you’re using an electric motor, the process is the same except you won’t be drifting off the fish; rather each retrieve will be right past them providing the lure is on the bottom.
Using an electric motor to work in and out of anchored boats can allow you to find more fish than you normally would.
Light tackle at its finest.
Snapper of all sizes love devouring plastics.
There is always a lot of talk about which soft plastic too use and each avid lure angler will tell you something different. In an ideal world, you would have done your homework and have a packet of each well publicised plastic anglers have caught reds using but then you might have a lot more than you need.
It is often a difficult choice of which lure to use but there are a handful of styles and brands that do repeatedly catch fish. Of the few, Keitech’s 5' Swing and 5' Shad Impact, Squidgy 110mm Flick bait in the pilly colour, Squidgy 125mm Whip bait in the Pilly colour and Berkley’s watermelon turtleback worm are the killers.
These days, I don’t head out without them. Even if I’m fishing with bait they are still in my tackle bag just in case I feel like making the switch.
Along with a selection of soft plastics is the jig heads you’ll require to work the bottom. Different depths will require a different weight and if there is current or wave action to contend with, you might like to use a heavier head.
Personally, throughout most of Port Phillip Bay I favour a 3/8th of an ounce head for depths ranging 12 meters to 20 meters. In shallower waters I tend to use a ¼ ounce head. The reason for reducing the weight as you fish shallower is to keep the natural free floating action of the lure when it is sinking to the bottom. Though you do want a slow sink rate so it looks like a dead or dying fish, too light and the current or wave action will push the lure away from the where you intended it to land. Too heavy and the lure will just plummet to fast and the fish wont even consider it as a meal. These specific weights also come with a range of hook sizes but for snapper either a 3/0 or 4/0 will suffice.
There are a lot of plastics on the market. Once you have success withone, it will become your go to.
Lure fishing for snapper is a whole lot of fun and if you haven’t tried it, you should give it ago. If you are going to have a cast, leave the bait at home. Dabbling in lure fishing isn’t going to set the world on fire and you might get board of it and go back to bait. If you leave the bait at home, you’ll have only one choice but work continually cast and work the lure improving you technique with each cast. I guarantee, once you get that first fish on the board, you to will be hooked.